While Iranians mourned the devastating loss of a national icon, famed vocalist Mohammad Reza Shajarian who passed away on October 8, 2020, the release of Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi was a welcome bit of good news. Reports of Mohammadi’s long-awaited release provided a small respite for Iranians who have witnessed a growing pattern of repression and heavy sentences for protestors, activists, and prisoners of conscience in recent years.
An engineer and physicist, Mohammadi also worked as an independent journalist and prominent human rights activist working against the state’s human rights abuses and campaigning against the death penalty in Iran. No stranger to intimidation tactics of Iranian authorities, Mohammadi has served unjust prison sentences in the past. After being detained in May of 2015 and sentenced on spurious charges such as “propaganda against the state,” Mohammadi was sent to the notorious Evin prison to serve a 10-year term.
Even while in prison, Mohammadi continued her activism with an open letter entitled “White Torture,” which called out the cruel use of solitary confinement and other abusive treatment and conditions for prisoners. BBC Persian reports that her letter has been expanded into a book, with the help of 12 other female prisoners, such as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Atena Daemi, and their personal accounts of such abuses. Mohammadi described the squalor of the prison as, “A dark, stinking, dirty room … no soap, no detergent, no towel, no napkin… It was just three blankets and that was it. The blankets were putrid and covered in vomit.”
Facing various health issues, including Covid-19, Mohmmadi’s family pleaded for her release. Though Mohammadi’s freedom is a reason to rejoice, Iranian authorities must free all political prisoners and abide by their human rights obligations. The happy news of her release on October 8th coincided with the death of Shajarian, whose awe-inspiring voice became a rallying cry against injustice. As a tribute to Shajarian and a recognition of the importance of his songs, Mohammadi’s husband, Taghi Rahmani, shared a video of Mohammadi singing Shajarian’s famed Bird of Dawn about a bird struggling to break free from its cage, “This cage, like my heart, is narrow and dark… O Heart-lost bird, ease the tale of suffering.”Back to top